More employers are testing new hires in physical jobs to establish a baseline in case they ever file a workers’ comp claim down the road.
The aim is to establish what physical ailments and pain the new hire already has, so if they are injured you can find out if they aggravated an existing injury or it’s just an existing injury that’s flaring up. And if done correctly, baseline testing doesn’t infringe on the worker’s rights or health privacy.
Baseline testing should not be confused with physical evaluations that are conducted after a job offer, but prior to placement, to ensure the new hire doesn’t have physical constraints that would keep them from performing their job. The data in a baseline evaluation cannot be used for that.
In fact, the data collected in baseline testing is kept sealed from the employer.
How it works
Baseline testing is best conducted on workers in physical jobs.
Baseline tests measure the signals traveling in the nerves and muscles, and include the use of electromyography. The tests are non-invasive and often include range-of-motion testing.
Employers that send their employees for testing cannot view the test results unless the information is needed to confirm or refute a subsequent injury.
If a worker files a claim for a soft-tissue or repetitive motion injury, the employer can order a second test, which will be used by the insurance claims adjuster or treating physician to compare to the baseline test. If there is no change in pathology, the claims administrator can deny the claim and the chances are high it won’t be contested.
To avoid problems with singling out specific workers or disabilities, you should perform this testing on the entire workforce – or at least in all of your physical jobs.
Under the law, you can order baseline testing at any time on any employee, and not just when they are hired.
The good thing about the testing is that it can identify legitimate claims. Since there is a baseline, when doctors compare and see a change in pathology, they can order treatment and workers’ comp insurance pays for it and the worker’s time away from work.
On the other hand, a second test can show irrefutable evidence that there was no chain in pathology and so the injury that the worker is claiming is likely not work-related.
Anecdotally, employers that use baseline testing see tremendous results in their workers’ comp claims.
According to an article in <i>Business Insurance</i>, Wisconsin-based Marten Transport since starting baseline testing in 2015:
- Has seen its rate of soft-tissue injury claims for new hires drop from 3.3 per 100 new hires to 1.4.
- Has had only three of the 37 claims filed by new hires in their first six months showing actual injuries beyond soft-tissue pain that was documented when they began working.
Marten Transport conducts the tests as part of its employment agreement and uses a third-party company to carry them out.
The non-profit organization, the Gatesway Foundation, started using baseline testing by contracting with California-based Emerge Diagnostics to rein in its spiraling workers’ comp costs.
It had been experiencing a high share of work-related musculoskeletal injuries (soft-tissue) claims, like injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs.
The year prior to implementing baseline testing, the foundation’s developed claims losses were $1 million. In the first six months of the next policy year, prior to implementing the program, the foundation’s developed losses were $500,000 but, in the latter half of the year – after implementation – losses had dropped to $30,000.
Overall, it reduced claims costs by $316,544 and the program cost $9,200 – a return on investment of 3,441%.
As mentioned, workers in physical jobs are the best candidates for baseline testing. That includes both light and heavy manufacturing, construction, agriculture, cleaning services and movers, to name a few.
But it could also be applied to any job that involves any type of repetitive motion, even without physical exertion.